In our series on interview questions that you can expect, this is one that will come up in almost every interview.
And, consider yourself fortunate: This interview question is one of the top ones to separate the people who are 100% interested in a position from those who are just blindly interviewing. In fact, in a hiring situation where you are going up against lots of talented people, answering this question well is a fabulous way to really set yourself apart from other candidates.
Here are some strategies for acing the question and they all come down to one factor: doing your homework.
- Read the company’s website. This might seem so obvious but it’s a great place to start. Checking out the website will give you a sense for the type of public face they put on their company. A great section to really dig into is the “news” section where you can find press releases they’ve put out or articles they’ve been included in. That shows exactly what’s important to them and gives conversational fodder to you. For example, if you read about a big new client, you can mention that you’d love to work with a company like that. (Keeping it generic makes sure you’re not pigeonholed, in case they’re staffing up for something else!)
- Do a Google search. Just like they might be searching you, you want to search them. It will bring up their basic website, but it also might bring up reviews and other data to pay attention to. While you don’t want to put them on the spot by mentioning something negative, you could mention a positive review and say that you want to work with a company that really values its customers. If they are having customer service issues that are being blasted online, you could mention it in a problem-solving fashion, as in “I enjoy a challenge and have heard your company is beefing up its social media presence to help deal with the inevitable customer complaint.” You also can further hone your search by clicking on the “news” button to only get news stories they’ve been included in, which offers further information to discuss.
- Find something about the company that is unique. You want to go beyond the obvious, for example, the fact that they are environmentally friendly, and find something that other people might not know about and really show off your thorough research. So, for example, if they are really into team building activities or if they have robust networking groups, you could mention that as something that’s appealing to you. Your online searching might find this out, but if you can ask an employee, that is helpful for an insider’s view.
- Be ready to give. The company wants to know what you can do for it, so be prepared with a great statement. You don’t want to mention only that you want to work for them because they are so great, but also that you think you have a lot to add.
- Compare/contrast your existing job with their company. Are they a conglomerate and you work for a mom-and-pop? That offers an easy way to contrast your existing job with the new one, so it doesn’t look like you are just job hunting for new opportunities. You can tell the interviewer that you’ve had a lot of positive, hands-on experience but you are ready to try something new in an environment that offers more options. The reverse can be true, too; when you are going from a large company to a smaller one. You can mention the excellent training and networking skill building opportunities you received, but that the larger firm had become harder to navigate and you were looking for something with fewer layers and where you were closer to the decision-making.
- Don’t mention perks or salary as one of the reasons you want to work there. Of course, great benefits, a huge commission and an upcoming sabbatical are all reasons to be very, very interested in the company. But be careful so it doesn’t look like that is your sole interest in the position – even if it is! It’s best not to mention money in any way during early interviews, especially if you want to have a chance to negotiate.
- Use words that they use. A proven technique for getting someone to view you as competent and engaged is to use the words that they do. So, if the company uses the terms colleagues or associates rather than coworkers and customers, do the same especially if you are using that as an example of one of the reasons that you want to work there. You can also use this mirror technique mentioning your own skills, using the same words that they listed in the ad, or that the interviewer asks, when talking about the job. They want to feel that you are a problem solver, and using their language helps convince them that you understand their needs.
- Always speak positively about your current and past bosses and jobs. As you’re letting them know why you want this particular job, don’t let it veer into negativity about a former position. Even if your boss is the worst ever, and you are looking for a new positive experience, you don’t want to badmouth any aspect of your current or past positions. It makes you look bad and leaves them wondering how long until you start bashing them!
The goal throughout the interview is always to set yourself apart as the best person for the particular job. But the person interviewing you wants to think that their company is your first choice and not just one on a long list of potential opportunities you are pursuing. By doing a smart amount of intelligence gathering beforehand, and connecting your particular attributes to their company and needs, you can help put yourself above the other candidates in the eyes of the interviewer.
by Cathie Ericson